2011 NFL Draft: Should the Browns Draft Patrick Peterson?

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2011 NFL Draft: Should the Browns Draft Patrick Peterson?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With the 2011 NFL Draft just a few weeks away, draftnik’s all around the world are filling in their selections for mock drafts.

Patrick Peterson, the stud cornerback out of LSU, is widely regarded as the best player in the entire draft, and no worse than a Top 5 overall player. However, in many mock drafts, quarterbacks Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are being selected over Peterson, who's falling to Cleveland at number six.

Quite a few scenarios have Peterson falling. Carolina could go with Peterson, but it’s more likely they’ll take the bigger position of need with Newton or Gabbert. The Broncos are almost sure to draft Marcell Dareus, and the Bills look set to grab with Dareus or  Newton should either fall. Gabbert and Von Miller could be in the mix as well.

With Cincinnati's eyes set on A.J. Green and the Cardinals slotted for either Gabbert or Miller, Peterson's a not-so hot commodity, according to some mocks. But Cleveland sitting at pick 6 has their eye on him, with a cornerback spot to fill opposite rookie sensation Joe Haden.

The only issue is, would Peterson be the right pick? If he’s sitting there, will Tom Heckert make the call to fill the card out for Patrick Peterson?

Can the Browns justify grabbing a cornerback with the sixth overall pick in back to back years?

Those are just a few of the questions some Browns fans have. So let’s discuss some arguments FOR and AGAINST drafting the special, versatile SEC athlete.

 

Arguments for Peterson if he falls:

Best Player Available

Since most consider Peterson one of the best overall players in the draft, is it really reasonable to pass on him if he’s sitting at six? Haven’t the Browns made mistakes in the past by not drafting the best player available and reaching for need? Gerard Warren, William Green, Chaun Thompson, Kamerion Wimbley, Kellen Winslow. Need I go on?

Some of the best NFL teams draft based on the player available and where he’s ranked on their big board. Of course, if you have a young Super Bowl caliber quarterback, you’re not going to draft a guy in the first few rounds, but of course there are exceptions.

 

Pass Rushers Are Deep in 2011

There are around a dozen defensive ends, most of whom are legit pure pass rushers and potential right defensive end studs, who are first round talents. Not all of those guys will be drafted in the first round, and some may even slide to the middle of round two.

So is it necessary to reach for a pass rusher when one should be easy to find later in the draft? With pick 38, there should still be at least 3-4 solid pass rusher options available. Heck, even in the third round there will be value at defensive end/pass rusher. So why overdraft a player like Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan, or Aldon Smith?

Marc Serota/Getty Images
Does Joe Haden negate the need for Pat Pete?

 

Cornerback Is Still a Need

Cleveland has Joe Haden manning one cornerback spot, with the other likely be filled by Sheldon Brown, whose best position at this point in his career may be at free safety. It’s great to have a shutdown corner on the field, but in a passing league, there are teams running systems with four wide receiver sets. There are tight ends with the speed of receivers, who are also still large and can catch the ball in traffic.

Peterson’s physical presence, along with Haden, could be huge for the Browns, especially when shutting down the quick passes from quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning.

 

Arguments against Peterson if he falls:

Salary Cap Issues

When drafting in the Top 10 frequently, the players seem to get more expensive. Would the Browns be able to pay two cornerbacks Top 10 money for the next 4-6 seasons? In a few seasons, the team may have to let one go, and if there’s no pass rush established, it’d almost seem like a wasted draft pick if one of the corners they paid all that money for leaves in free agency.

When you think of paying players, you want to pay the big money to the key positions. Paying Top 10 money to a #2 cornerback in the league doesn’t seem to add up as a good financial decision.

 

You Don’t Need Great Corners to Win

Other than the Green Bay Packers, no team since 2005 has won a Super Bowl with an “elite” corner. Of course, the term “elite” is thrown around too easily at times, and sometimes many players are often appreciated.

The Steelers best cornerback was Ike Taylor, consider by many to be just above average and who is overall a liability in coverage and looks better than he is because of the pass rush (which can easily be argued as true).

The Giants did it in 2007 with veteran Sam Madison and young Aaron Ross starting for them. The Colts managed to shut down the Bears with Kelvin Hayden and Tim Jennings.

The Saints combination of Randall Gay, Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter managed to keep Peyton Manning from putting up just enough points for the Saints to pull out the late victory.

We also watched the Jets fail to make it to the Super Bowl in 2010 despite having Darrelle Revis and a more-than-serviceable Antonio Cromartie.

 

Importance of Pass Rush Over Coverage

Generally, teams with a great pass rush tend to win many more games. In this day and age, getting to the quarterback is much more important than having a secondary who can take receivers out of the game.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
James Harrison and Co. were no match for Aaron Rodgers.

While Aaron Rodgers somewhat disproved this theory using a very quick release to expose an average Pittsburgh secondary, the general rule of thumb in the NFL is that the pass rush leads to more defensive success.

An elite pass rush can be negated by a quick releasing quarterback (Rodgers), but an elite secondary with minimal pass rush won’t always fare much better if the quarterback has time in the pocket to make the proper reads.

 

Other Needs Could Be Had with Value at Pick Six

The term “value” varies depending on which NFL scout you talk to. Some experts think Robert Quinn is a lock for a Top 10 selection because of his natural pass rush ability. Personally, I don’t believe the Quinn hype, but that’s a topic for a different day.

The overall consensus seems to be that Cal defensive lineman Cameron Jordan, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, and a few select other players would still be excellent “value” picks with the sixth overall selection.

All of those positions fill a need for the Browns, and most would argue that they are bigger needs than a #2 cornerback.

 

My Personal Stance

If the Cleveland Browns are sitting at pick six with Peterson available, the first option should be to find a trading partner. With a player of Peterson’s talent potentially falling to that selection, somebody will be interested. The great news is that with San Francisco, Tennessee, Dallas, Washington, and Houston all needing help in the secondary, a team is more inclined to jump ahead of those NFL clubs to snatch Peterson if they feel they aren’t giving up too much.

The Browns have many needs, and stockpiling more picks in a draft with pretty good depth, especially on the defensive line, should be the top priority, even with a player of Peterson’s talent.

If Cleveland somehow cannot find a trading partner, it’s too hard to pass up on Peterson, and he needs to be the selection based on overall value, and the fact that it’s still a position of need.

 

You Be the Judge

The arguments I presented above are for you, as an NFL fan, to make up your own mind. It’s up to you whether or not you’re happy with a potential selection of the talented cornerback one NFL analyst claimed to be better than Darrelle Revis.

 

Be sure to also check out my Seven Round Mock Draft at NFL Soup!

For NFL Draft and Cleveland Browns news follow me on Twitter @NFLSoupKeet

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